(1999) Vernor Vinge, Millennium, £6.99, pbk, 757pp
Supposedly a prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, this is in fact nothing of the sort. It is set in the same universe, though 300,000 years before the events of that book, and there are correspondences between the two, but a prequel it’s not. So, anyway, The Qeng Ho trading fleet set course to the ‘On/Off’ star near their last port of call, having detected radio signals there where none were expected. However, another space fleet, controlled by the ‘Emergents’, altered humans, have the same idea. Can they co-operate to exploit the resources of the world Arachne, and what of the native inhabitants, themselves embroiled in a war fought over centuries...? With no apology whatsoever, I must say that I think this book stinks. It is dull, it is plodding, it is badly overwritten. Not one of the characters is convincing or sympathetic. But what do I know? After all, this has just won the 2000 Hugo for Best Novel! However, like Orson Scott Card before him, it seems Vinge is capitalising on his previous success (and why not) but, unfortunately, without being as good a writer as Card. Personally, I’d say stay away from this stinker, but those who voted in the Hugo would clearly recommend it.
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